So you went on a date with a guy and you never would have thought by looking at his dating profile, but damn, it went really well! You sent him a message after the date and—to your complete surprise—he responded immediately. So what does it mean when a guy responds right away?
“What the data does show in general related to these types of topics is that it really depends,” said Kristen Mark, a sex and relationships researcher at the University of Kentucky.
Mark explained that while texting has become more and more popular than talking over the phone, there’s unfortunately no rulebook to help you figure out whether someone is interested based on how quickly they respond.
“One person might think that it’s showing interest and that’s a good thing, and then another person might think it’s a little too eager,” she said.
Why do guys take so long to text back?
In some cases, guys will hold off messaging because they don’t want to come off as too eager. In other words: They’re playing hard to get.
Shayan Hak, a 30-year-old owner of a gym in Toronto, said when he was younger, if a woman responded after half an hour, he’d wait 45 minutes—not for any particular reason, but just as a matter of principle.
“Now I can’t believe I did that,” Hak said.
These days, if Hak is interested, he’ll usually respond right away. However—and if you’re nervous about how fast a guy responds, this might increase your anxiety—he might wait up to 24 hours to respond until he finds the perfect thing to say.
“If I’m talking to a girl who I’m really into and she sends a flirtatious message, I’ll take some time to think about it. Sometimes I’ll even outsource the humor to a close friend or cousins,” he said. “I know I’m not the only one. I know other boys who do that, too.”
Mark explained that while texting games do exist, they tend to dissipate with age.
Collins Nwaogu, a 30-year-old single guy who works for the Washington, D.C., local government, said he often takes at least a few hours to respond, but not because he isn’t interested.
“It’s not like a phone call, where you have to respond immediately,” he said. “If I don’t have anything going on, maybe I’ll text a little bit, but typically I might be working on something and moving around, so I don’t have time to text very much.”
Mark said if the message is waiting there for a few hours or even a day or two, it’s probably nothing to worry about. But if it goes longer, that could be a bad sign. “If it takes a really long time—like a really long time—for somebody to respond, I feel like that’s maybe a bit more of an indicator than somebody responding ‘too quickly.’”
What it means when a guy responds quickly to your texts
If Hak is seeing someone, he will share memes, songs and flirtatious messages to keep the chat going. Or he might even fire off a message when he thinks of the person.
“If she drives a blue car and I see a blue car, I might be like, ‘Just saw a blue car, thinking about you.’ Or like, ‘Made this omelette, turned out really good, what do you think?’ and send a picture to her.”
For Hak, having rapid text conversations means things are going smoothly. “I think the level of interest indicates how quickly I send their responses out,” he said.
On the other hand, Nwaogu might send jokes here and there, but if he’s messaging quickly it’s not necessarily because he’s more interested. It’s more likely he’s trying to get off the dating app and into a face-to-face meeting.
“In person, you really get my full personality. You’re not going to really get or understand me so much over text message,” he said.
Mark pointed out that texting can be a good way to communicate. It’s great for bringing up topics that you’re not as comfortable talking about in person, for instance. “But it is problematic in that you’re only getting one small component of communication.”
If you’re confused about his level of interest, Mark said it might be a good idea to take a page out of Nwaogu’s book and opt for a date instead of waiting for a message. Texting can leave out body language, such as facial expressions, which can tell you a lot. If you really want to text, Mark suggested using emojis. According to a study published in PLOS ONE in 2019, emojis can lead to more physical intimacy.
Never read too much into a text
There could be a slew of reasons why someone responds quickly: They might happen to have their phone in their hand, they might be really into you or they might not be thinking about it at all—it really depends.
But if you’re paying a lot of attention to their responses, Mark said that could say more about your interest than theirs.
“If you’re interested in the person, then you will make up a story in your mind about that person and it will be positive because you like them,” she said. “We tend to give people that we like and that we’re interested in a little more leeway than we do people that we’re not as interested in.”
If you’re responding just as quickly as they are and enjoying the conversation, roll with it and don’t overthink things. According to an American Psychological Association analysis, relationships that have the same rhythm of messaging are destined to be happier.
And if you’re frustrated by the speed of their response, that might be a sign you’re simply not clicking.
“If you’re making those judgments, then you might not be that into this person—you’re looking for a reason to not continue, and that’s totally fine,” Mark said. “Just acknowledge that that’s the case.”